Beautiful Trouble!

If you haven’t yet checked out the new book Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, well, get on it! The book, was assembled by Andrew Boyd, who herded about 70 folks into writing a whole lot of short, outstanding essays about grassroots organizing, creative action, and social change. Beautiful Trouble is “a book & web toolbox that puts the best ideas and tactics of creative action in the hands of the next generation of change-makers, connecting the accumulated wisdom of decades of creative protest to the popular outrage of the current political moment…”

It’s a great book! You can order it here!

And it’s not just a book — it’s also a fantastic web toolbox.

I contributed seven chapters to the book (two of them in collaboration with other contributors). You can check them all out in the Beautiful Trouble web toolbox, and also below.

Participating in the project has been delightful. My organization, Beyond the Choir, collaborated with Agit-Pop, The Other 98%, Yes Lab, smartMeme, Center for Artistic Activism, Ruckus Society, Waging Nonviolence, Nonviolence International, Codepink, and Alliance of Community Trainers — fantastic folks!

Beautiful Trouble modules contributed by
Jonathan Matthew Smucker:

We are all leaders

Occupy together.

An otherwise healthy distrust of hierarchy can lead to a negative attitude toward all forms of leadership. Actually, we want more leadership, not less.

Seek common ground

PR_Seek common ground_God is green

In search of allies and points of agreement, we must grow comfortable adopting the rhetoric of worldviews we might otherwise oppose.

Make new folks welcome

Even a toddler can hold a petition on the back of a truck. Get people involved at their level. (Protesting the nuclear arms race in San Francisco, California in 1960. Photo by Pip R. Lagenta/Flickr.)

Recruitment and retention go hand in hand. A few simple procedures for orienting new participants can go a long way to ensuring their ongoing involvement.

Escalate strategically

John Lewis and Jim Zwerg of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee after being beaten during the Freedom Rides. Photo of a museum exhibit.

If dissident political groups tend to become more extreme over time, then good leaders should help define that ‘extreme’ in constructive ways.

Political identity paradox

By donning crash helmets, smashing windows and choosing to clash with the police during the Days of Rage protests that were organized in the wake of the 1969 Democratic Convention riot in Chicago, the Weatherman faction of SDS alienated many would-be supporters.

Group identity offers embattled activists a cohesive community, but also tends to foster a subculture that can be alienating to the public at large. Balancing these two tendencies is crucial to sustaining the work of an effective group, organization or movement.

Expressive and instrumental actions

Reflective wolves consider instrumental impacts. Image by Joshua Kahn Russell and Beatriz Carmen Mendoza, inspired by a cartoon by S. Gross. Originally printed in Organizing Cools the Planet (PM Press, 2011).

Political action tends to be driven by one of two different motivations: expressing an identity, and winning concrete changes. It’s important to know the difference, and to strike a balance between the two.

Floating signifier

What do Guy Fawkes, the "hope" campaign and the 99% have in common? They can be used individually, or together (as in this image), as floating signifiers to unite campaigns and movements. Original design by Shepard Fairey.

An empty or “floating” signifier is a symbol or concept loose enough to mean many things to many people, yet specific enough to galvanize action in a particular direction.

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